Fri, 09 Feb 2024 Feature Article

Cameroun Forces Citizens to take Dangerous Routes to Exile

Cameroun Forces Citizens to take Dangerous Routes to Exile

Cameroun’s Regional Delegate for National Security for the littoral region, EYONG TOLO Augustin Calvin has signed a Service Note prohibiting staff of the Douala airport Authority, Territorial Surveillance, External Research and medical personnel from facilitating the massive exodus of primary and secondary school teachers from the territory.

In recent years, Cameroun has witnessed a hike in the number of its citizens seeking passage abroad, in search of greener pastures, and escaping from tyranny. A couple of people have died trying to reach the United States, crossing through the Amazon Rainforest jungles. Recently, dozens of Cameroonians died crossing the sea in the Caribbeans on make shift ferries from Barbuda. Disturbing images have emerged of Cameroonians tortured in Morocco trying to cross through the Sahara Desert into Spain.

The story of Super weight boxing champion, Francis Nganou, who trekked through the desert into Europe, became a boxing champion, now flying on private jets is capturing the fancy of younger and more daring youths from Cameroun.

The prohibition of exodus brings to limelight decades old trend of brain drain from The Cameroons, forcing many to ask why this wave of immigration. While there is a semblance of control of those transiting through the airport, there is no clear indication of those unaccounted leaving the country through its porous borders.

One of the longest serving dictatorships in Africa is lodged in Cameroun, where Paul Biya has overseen the collapse of the country’s infrastructures and state machinery for 42 years. Things have reached a tipping point with the spate of killings of political opponents and opinion leaders.

Hundreds of thousands of former Cameroonians from the English-speaking regions took perilous routes to leave when tyrant and genocidaire Paul Biya declared war on those seeking autonomy for the nascent state of Amabazonia. This war has claimed over 70 thousand lives among women and children, raped killed and burnt alongside their homes. Mentioning or writing the word Amabzonia, dooms authors to either being arrested and detained, or killed. Samuel Wazzi, and English-speaking photojournalist was arrested and killed by Cameroun defense forces. Since then, hundreds of journalists have gone into exile, and more are streaming out.

Those arrested have been accused of terrorism and apology of secession, and other charges like supporting hostility to the State. Mancho Bibixy and Thomas Awah Jr are serving long sentences at Yaounde prisons for instigating violence, hostility to the state and supporting secession.

Nditoh Gabriel Gwellem was a photojournalist and broadcaster in Bamenda when the teachers and lawyers strike started, and when war broke out. Like other journalists, he is targeted and pursued for mentioning and writing about the genocidal war in Ambazonia. He comes from a history of opposition politics in Cameroun. His father was First Deputy Mayor of Njinikom Rural Council from 2003-2011 when he passed. He was representing the main opposition party, Social Democratic Front (SDF), thereby causing the family to face incessant intimidation from the ruling political party (CDPM). His uncle was a journalist and also a victim of several arrests and detention. The family was in perpetual danger because of their father's political opinions.

Cameroun journalist, Nalova Akua recently featured some Cameroun exiled journalists on Aljazeera . These journalists, starting from the most senior, Boh Herbert who had spates at the communication desks of the World bank et al, all have harrowing stories of persecution and torture in Cameroun.

Why are English-speaking journalists more targeted? French speaking journalists are also targeted. We sadly recall the harassment and eventual death by staged car accident of Pius Njawe in 2010. The harrowing story of the abduction and eventual assassination of Martinez Zogo for criticizing Cameroun corruption and embezzlement still makes waves.

In the case of Nditoh Gabriel Gwellem, his ‘ethnicity’ as anglophone, the political opinions and alliances of his late father sets him aside for the worst treatment. He is an activist journalist like those featured on Aljazeera by Nalova Akua. Gabriel condemns human rights violations in Cameroun. That is a serious offence, as just being a human rights defender is a quasi crime in Cameroun.

As a law student of the University of Bamenda, Gabriel found himself protesting against the erosion of the common Law system alongside other Anglophone lawyers. He was also attracted to the teachers’ protests because of the mother who herself was a teacher. Growing up, Gabriel watched some of the challenges of his teacher-mother. Peaceful protesters marching with palm branches were tear-gassed, arrested, tortured and detained. Gabriel was tortured for a week in detention. He is luckier than his friend, Akum Julius who was shot dead on the streets of Bamenda.

Not dampened by the assassination of Julius Akum, Gabriel went ahead and covered the celebration of Southern Cameroons Independence Day on 1st October 2018, during which millions of people marched passed with Ambazonian flags, singing liberation songs. After covering the events, the military targeted Gabriel, forcing him to flee to Yaounde. Yaounde was not a safe haven as he was arrested at a military control post and detained. With the dangers hanging everywhere for activists and journalists, and prominently on his head, Gabriel bribed his way through airport security and boarded an Ethiopian flight from Yaounde through Adis, Paris and Toronto, where he sought asylum.

The January 23, 2024 Service Note from the Littoral police boss targets people like Gabriel, as they cannot understand how wanted activists manage to slip through the tight controls installed at all exit posts in Cameroun. If it was just to slow down brain drain, Cameroun has missed enticing its highly qualified teachers and doctors from seeking greener pastures.

Cameroun’s human rights violations have now included crimes of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity as it pursues its WAR FOR A ONE AND INDIVISBLE CAMEROUN. King Solomon was wiser not to divide the child which would have been automatic death. Killing Ambazonians and burning them divides the divisible Cameroun faster. Journalists and activists cannot keep quiet but CRY THE BELOVED COUNTRY. No human being signed a pact to be subjected to inhuman treatment. Teachers, doctors and nurses, and many others will be forced to seek greener pastures around the world. The service note from Mr. police boss will only fuel the imagination of others to flee, a country which has become a deathtrap.

*Christopher Fon Achobang is a rights defender, activist and journalist in exile in Kmpala, Uganda.

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